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Publication numberUS7499870 B1
Publication typeGrant
Application numberUS 10/742,628
Publication dateMar 3, 2009
Filing dateDec 19, 2003
Priority dateDec 19, 2003
Fee statusPaid
Also published asUS8335707, US20090164306, US20130041749
Publication number10742628, 742628, US 7499870 B1, US 7499870B1, US-B1-7499870, US7499870 B1, US7499870B1
InventorsRobert J. Petrossi
Original AssigneeSales Research Institute, Inc.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
System and method for developing sales content
US 7499870 B1
Abstract
A system and method of developing sales information for use in a buyer-seller environment is directed to providing one or more qualifiers which relate to a sales offering; determining value criteria, for each qualifier, to identify potential value of the sales offering; determining ideal buying criteria based on a competitive analysis; and developing the sales information from the value and buying criteria. The sales information, which can be a letter of understanding (LOU) or a buyer needs assessment, can be stored on a server and updated and accessed by one or more sellers. The updating can be an iterative process that is responsive to feedback about the sales information.
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Claims(28)
1. A computer implemented method of developing sales information for use in a buyer-seller environment, the method comprising:
providing one or more qualifiers which relate to a sales offering;
determining value criteria, for each qualifier, to identify potential value of the sales offering including determining, for at least one of the qualifiers, an open-ended query statement which is used by the seller in an information gathering procedure, where the open-ended query enables the seller to determine a potential problem for the buyer, the information gathering procedure enabling the seller to determine information relevant to solving the problem for the buyer;
determining ideal buying criteria based on a competitive analysis; and
using a computer for developing the sales information from the value criteria and the buying criteria.
2. A method of developing sales information according to claim 1 wherein each qualifier further includes a characteristic which relates to the buyer or the seller.
3. A method of developing sales information according to claim 2 wherein the characteristic is at least one of: an attribute of the seller, attribute of the buyer, potential need of the buyer, or potential problem for the buyer.
4. A method of developing sales information according to claim 1 wherein the information gathering procedure further includes determining a potential impact which results from the problem being solved.
5. A method of developing sales information according to claim 1 wherein determining an impact further includes determining a beneficiary that benefits from the problem being solved.
6. A method of developing sales information according to claim 5 further including determining whether the beneficiary is a primary or secondary target.
7. A method of developing sales information according to claim 6 wherein determining that the beneficiary is a primary target further includes:
determining that the beneficiary has a vested interest in accepting the sales offering; and
determining that the beneficiary potentially has the ability to accept the sales offering.
8. A method of developing sales information according to claim 1 wherein determining value criteria for each qualifier further includes determining information about a present situation of the buyer with respect to the qualifier.
9. A method of developing sales information according to claim 8 wherein determining value criteria for each qualifier further includes determining a desired result for the buyer based on the present situation.
10. A method of developing sales information according to claim 1 wherein determining ideal buying criteria based on a competitive analysis further includes determining a potential value of the sales offering by using the value criteria in a quantitative analysis.
11. A method of developing sales information according to claim 1 wherein the competitive analysis is based on a strengths and weaknesses analysis of the sales offering.
12. A method of developing sales information according to claim 11 wherein the strengths and weaknesses analysis further includes comparing the strengths and weaknesses of the sales offering against at least one competitive offering.
13. A method of developing sales information according to claim 12 wherein the competitive analysis further includes ranking the strengths of the offering against the competitive offering.
14. A method of developing sales information according to claim 13 wherein the competitive analysis further includes determining the ideal buying criteria from strengths which rank higher than the competitive offering.
15. A method of developing sales information according to claim 13 the competitive analysis further includes developing a value proposition from strengths which rank higher than the competitive offering.
16. A method of developing sales information according to claim 13 the competitive analysis further includes developing an opening sales repertoire from strengths which rank higher than the competitive offering.
17. A method of developing sales information according to claim 1 wherein the ideal buying criteria is based on at least one of the following: decision process criteria, timeframe criteria, or budget criteria.
18. A method of developing sales information according to claim 1 wherein the sales information is a letter of understanding for use in the buyer-seller environment.
19. A method of developing sales information according to claim 1 wherein the sales information assists the buyer in making a buying decision relating to the sales offering.
20. A method of developing sales information according to claim 1 wherein the sales information is a buyer needs assessment that includes at least one of the following sections: present situation, desired result, impact, decision criteria, decision process, timeframe, budget, or next steps.
21. A method of developing sales information according to claim 1 further including:
storing the sales information on a server; and
updating, by one or more sellers, the sales information.
22. A method of developing sales information according to claim 21 wherein the updating is an iterative process that is responsive to feedback about the sales information.
23. A method of developing sales information according to claim 1 further including:
storing the value and the buying criteria on a server for retrieval by sellers for developing the sales information; and
updating, by one or more sellers, the value and buying criteria.
24. A method of developing sales information according to claim 23 wherein the updating is an iterative process that is responsive to feedback about the sales information.
25. A method of developing sales information according to claim 1 wherein the qualifiers are derived from a qualifier template, the value criteria is derived from a value template, and the competitive analysis is derived from a competitive analysis template.
26. A computer implemented method of developing sales information for use in a customer-seller environment, the method comprising:
providing one or more qualifiers which relate to a sales offering;
for each qualifier:
determining criteria that enables the seller to gather information to assess any needs of the customer; and
determining criteria to identify any value of a sales offering;
determining, for at least one of the qualifiers, an open-ended query statement which is used by the seller in an information gathering procedure, where the open-ended query enables the seller to determine a potential problem for the buyer, the information gathering procedure enabling the seller to determine information relevant to solving the problem for the buyer;
determining ideal buying criteria based on a competitive analysis; and
using a computer for developing the sales information from the needs, value and buying criteria.
27. A computer implemented method of developing sales information for use in a buyer-seller environment, the method comprising:
providing one or more qualifiers which relate to a sales offering;
for each qualifier:
determining criteria to identify any needs of a buyer; and
determining criteria to identify any value of a sales offering;
determining, for at least one of the qualifiers, an open-ended query statement which is used by the seller in an information gathering procedure, where the open-ended query enables the seller to determine a potential problem for the buyer, the information gathering procedure enabling the seller to determine information relevant to solving the problem for the buyer;
determining ideal buying criteria based on a competitive analysis; and
using a computer for developing the sales information from the needs, value and buying criteria.
28. A computer implemented method of developing sales information for use in a buyer-seller environment, the method comprising the computer implemented steps of:
providing one or more qualifiers which relate to a sales offering, where the one or more qualifiers is determined in response to an open-ended query statement which is used by the seller in an information gathering process, the open-ended query enabling the seller to determine a potential problem for the buyer;
determining value criteria, for each of the one or more qualifiers, to identify potential value of the sales offering;
determining buying criteria based on a competitive analysis; and
using a computer for processing the determined value criteria and the determined buying criteria to create the sales information;
storing the processed sales information on a server; and
updating, by one or more sellers, the processed sales information stored on the server, where the step of updating is an iterative process that is responsive to feedback about the processed sales information.
Description
BACKGROUND

Selling is considered to be both a science and an art. Selling as a science falls into three general categories. The first general category is scientific research in human communication and how people learn and retain information, psychology, neuroscience, and human achievement. The second general category is processes—identifying the processes to identify qualified prospects, to conduct thorough and accurate customer needs assessments, to effectively engage sales support resources, to develop customer centered solutions, and finally the process to negotiate and close the sale. The third general category is best practices—identifying the best practices of the top sales performers. The marketing organization in any company is generally responsible for providing the sales channels with the science of “who to sell” and “how to sell” information for each product or service offering. The sales channel is responsible for implementing the selling information provided by marketing.

The art of selling is in the application of the “science” or selling information provided by marketing to the sales channel. As in any discipline, the individual who knows the most science is able to do the most with their art. As a result, marketing plays a vital role in helping the sales channel excel in the art of selling.

Almost every company has a marketing plan that focuses on the needs of the customer in the marketplace. The marketing plan identifies target markets, potential revenue, and the types of products, services, and solutions that a company must produce to meet or exceed customer expectations. Marketing plans also frequently include a messaging strategy and some discussion of how the company's offerings will be publicized or promoted within the target markets.

As new offerings are released, the sales channel is provided with product and industry training which typically focuses on the features and benefits of the offering. After the sales channel completes the product and industry training they are expected to sell the new offering based on the information provided by marketing.

Most companies also have a sales strategy. The sales strategy identifies the sales channels needed to effectively sell the offering. It also describes how territories and quotas will be established to meet the revenue projections outlined in the marketing plan. As part of the sales strategy, besides providing the sales channel with industry and product training, it is also necessary to identify the competencies and sales skills needed by each sales person to effectively close business. Various sales skills training programs are usually provided on an ongoing basis with programs focused on a single skill or group of skills. After the sales channel completes sales skill training, they are expected to use these skills to meet the sales revenue quotas outlined in the marketing plan.

What is missing in traditional marketing plan and sales strategy implementation is the integration of information learned in product and industry training with the randomly acquired sales skills training. As a result, each sales person often must devote a significant amount of time trying to integrate industry and product data with randomly acquired sales skills into useable selling information for every product, service, or solution.

With individuals in the sales channel having to develop selling information on their own, the selling information is usually incomplete or inaccurate; it can be extremely difficult to identify, share, and leverage best practices; and productivity is diminished because the sales person spends more time preparing for sales calls and less time face to face selling. The individual sales person approach to develop selling information results in longer sales cycles, lower closing ratios, and higher costs of sale.

The type of selling information that marketing organizations typically provide to the sales channels usually falls into three general categories of information: “what to sell” information, “who to sell” information, and “how to sell” information. It is estimated that over 80% of the information that marketing typically provides to the sales channel is in the “what to sell” information category. Some examples may include: What are the performance characteristics? What is the industry information? What are the pricing guidelines? What are the promotional activities? What type of marketing literature will be available, and what are the features and benefits of the offering?

Marketing organizations usually are good at providing this important “what to sell” information. Unfortunately, “what to sell” information does not drive sales productivity. The sales channel needs to know who is best suited for the offering and how to sell the offering to them. Quality “who to sell” and “how to sell” information is needed by the sales channel to effectively implement marketing plans and sales strategies.

SUMMARY

The absence of quality “who to sell” and “how to sell” information and a common sales communication language is one reason why there is often a “disconnect” between marketing and the sales channel. Thus, there is a need for improvements that can help bridge the gap between the traditional marketing plan and sales strategy implementation in organizations. The present approach provides a system and method that allows marketing organizations to provide quality selling information that can help sales channels to quickly locate the best prospects for each offering and information on how to effectively close sales.

An advantage of the present system and method is that it allows companies to develop and implement marketing plans as an organization, rather than as individuals or separate business units. According to one aspect, a process is provided that enables product development, marketing and sales personnel to develop quality “who to sell” and “how to sell” information for one or more sales channels for product and service offerings. In an embodiment, the quality selling information is developed through a series of interrelated templates of a sales guide.

Another aspect relates to how the sales channel uses this quality selling information to develop and document customer needs assessments. Yet another aspect is directed to providing feedback from the sales channel to the marketing organization to update and refine the quality selling information included in the sales guide based on interaction with one or more customers of the product or service offering.

Accordingly, a method of developing sales information for use in a buyer-seller environment includes providing one or more qualifiers which relate to a sales offering; determining value criteria, for each qualifier, to identify potential value of the sales offering; determining ideal buying criteria based on a competitive analysis; and developing the sales information from the value and buying criteria. The sales information, which can be a letter of understanding (LOU) or a buyer needs assessment, can be stored on a server and updated and accessed by one or more sellers. The updating can be an iterative process that is responsive to feedback about the sales information.

According to another aspect, a system for developing a customer needs assessment includes a qualifier template identifying at least one qualifier pertaining to a sales offering; a value template coupled to the qualifier template, the value template including at least one of the qualifiers from the qualifier template; a competitive analysis template providing ideal buying criteria in connection with the sales offering; and customer needs assessment data including output from the value template and the competitive analysis template. The templates interrelate to define a sales guide. The system further includes a server for storage and retrieval of the sales guide and customer needs assessment data or LOU.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The foregoing and other objects, features and advantages of the invention will be apparent from the following more particular description of preferred embodiments of the invention, as illustrated in the accompanying drawings in which like reference characters refer to the same parts throughout the different views. The drawings are not necessarily to scale, emphasis instead being placed upon illustrating the principles of the invention.

FIG. 1 illustrates a process for developing quality selling information using information templates.

FIG. 2A illustrates an embodiment of a customer engagement model template.

FIG. 2B illustrates the template of FIG. 2A with sample information.

FIG. 3 illustrates an embodiment of a perception continuum template.

FIG. 4A illustrates an embodiment of a QICpic or ideal customer profile template.

FIG. 4B illustrates the template of FIG. 4A with sample information.

FIG. 5A illustrates an embodiment of a customer benefits template.

FIGS. 5B and 5C illustrate the template of FIG. 5A with sample information.

FIG. 6A illustrates an embodiment of a value questions template.

FIGS. 6B, 6C and 6D illustrate the template of FIG. 6A with sample information.

FIG. 7A illustrates an embodiment of an anticipated objections template.

FIGS. 7B and 7C illustrate the template of FIG. 7A with sample information.

FIG. 8A illustrates an embodiment of a return on investment (ROI) spreadsheet template.

FIG. 8B illustrates the template of FIG. 8A with sample information.

FIG. 9A illustrates an embodiment of a competitive landscape template.

FIG. 9B illustrates the template of FIG. 9A with sample information.

FIG. 10A illustrates an embodiment of a win/lose ground rules template.

FIG. 10B illustrates the template of FIG. 10A with sample information.

FIG. 11A illustrates an embodiment of a competitive tactics template.

FIG. 11B illustrates the template of FIG. 11A with sample information.

FIG. 12A illustrates an embodiment of a probability questions template.

FIG. 12B illustrates the template of FIG. 12A with sample information.

FIG. 13A illustrates an embodiment of a value proposition template.

FIGS. 13B and 13C illustrate the template of FIG. 13A with sample information.

FIG. 14A illustrates an embodiment of a two-minute drill template.

FIG. 14B illustrates the template of FIG. 14A with sample information.

FIG. 15 illustrates a process for using quality selling information to document customer needs assessments.

FIG. 16 is a block diagram of a quality selling information system.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The present system and method relates to improvements for developing quality selling information with respect to product and service offerings for use by sales channels to provide customer needs assessments. The present approach employs a series of interrelated templates to develop the quality selling information.

An embodiment of a process for developing quality selling information in the form of a sales guide is now described with reference to FIG. 1. The process shown includes the following templates: description of the offering template 1, customer engagement model template 2, perception continuum template 3, QICpic or ideal customer profile template 4, customer benefits template 5, value questions template 6, anticipated objections template 7, return on investment (ROI) spreadsheet template 8, competitive landscape template 9, win/lose ground rules template 10, competitive tactics template 11, probability questions template 12, value proposition template 13, two-minute drill template 14, and proposal template 15. The relationships between the templates and the respective roles in developing the quality information will be apparent from the following description of the individual templates. It should be understood that not all of the templates described herein are required to be used to develop a sales guide. It should also be understood that the process described is useful for developing a variety of sales guides, each tailored for one or more product or service offerings. Use of the developed sales guides by sales persons to document customer needs assessments is described further herein.

The description of the offering template 1 provides the sales channel with a succinct overview of the offering. The customer engagement model template 2 provides the sales channel with the steps of sale, as well as tools and resources available at each step of sale to quickly and profitably close the sale. The perception continuum template 3 describes where the company and the offering are viewed in the marketplace.

The QICPic or ideal customer profile template 4 helps the sales channel quickly identify prospects that would benefit most by purchasing the offering. The ideal customer profile is also used to develop quality selling information including positive and negative qualifiers that are used in a messaging process described further herein.

As shown in FIG. 1, the customer benefits, value questions and anticipated objections templates 5, 6, 7 link from the QICpic template 4. The customer benefits template 5 helps the sales channel identify the primary and secondary contacts that would benefit most by purchasing the offering. The value questions template 6 provides the sales channel with questions that will help to uncover the value of an offering, based on positive qualifiers identified in the QICpic template 4. The anticipated objections template 7 provides the sales channel with answers to anticipated objections and customer misunderstandings, based on negative qualifiers identified in the QICpic template 4. The ROI template 8, linked from the value questions template 6, helps the sales channel quantify the value of an offering for the customer.

The competitive landscape template 9 provides the sales channel with a comparison of the strengths and weaknesses of an offering against competitive alternatives. The competitive landscape is also used to create quality selling information in the messaging process. The win/lose ground rules template 10 identifies criteria relating to reasons why sales are typically won and lost. The competitive tactics template 11 provides the sales channel with tactics competitors may use to position their offerings against the client offerings. The probability question template 12 provides the sales channel with questions that can help determine the probability of eventually closing a sale. In particular, the capabilities of the client offering in the competitive landscape template 9 that are ranked higher than competitive offerings are used to develop ideal buying criteria queries or probability questions. In addition, the ranked capabilities from the competitive landscape 9 are used to develop the value proposition template 13.

The two-minute drill template 14 provides the sales channel with an opening sales presentation that can quickly earn the trust and confidence of the customer. The proposal template 15 saves the sales channel time in developing and assembling sales proposals.

Having briefly described the templates and their relationships, the following describes in further detail aspects of the templates. In addition, the templates are described in relation to an example offering that illustrates the operation of the system and method for develop quality selling information.

As noted above, the description of the offering template 1 (FIG. 1) provides a brief overview of the offering for the sales channel. The description of the offering includes information concerning details of the product or service offering and how the offering helps customers. The following is an example description of the offering that is used throughout the specification to illustrate the present system and method:

Description of the Offering
What it is How it helps customers
The Fiktishus Web Management This solution provides customers
solution employs a suite of both with a competitive edge by helping
existing and unreleased Fiktishus them consolidate operations and
software (under the Code Name: link to their global network of
XYZ) in an entirely new configura- distributors and dealers for the
tion. The offering from Fiktishus is products they manufacture. Each
being augmented by services from prospect for this offering will not
our new implementation partner, only be able to link to their trading
ABCD company. ABCD is the partners (who might supply raw
largest and most well-known services materials and other critical com-
organization when it comes to ponents) but also provides a
implementing web-based extranet direct link to the ultimate end user
solutions for business-to-business of the product. End users and
applications. This partnership allows trading partners will both have
us to leverage our ability to develop access to use a well-designed and
customized solutions built on an easy-to-navigate site tailored to
architecture that will serve the their language, locale, and business
customer for many years to come. practices.
The XYZ offering consists of Partners and end users will be
analysis software; intruder detection able to:
software; customizable user interface; Enter or acknowledge orders
and transaction management Track order status
software. Track delivery progress
All applications run on Windows NT Track payments
platforms. and review warranty and service
ABCD will be providing services status
which include: Best of all, the only technology
Architectural planning and design investment their partners and end-
Application planning & design users need is access to an Internet
Installation browser. With this new solution,
Implementation we anticipate that our clients can
And on-going support grow closer to their customers, and
enable suppliers to provide direct
consumer access. This offering is
part of our strategy to build a
foundation for effective
business-to-business and business-
to-consumer marketing.

The purpose of the customer engagement model template 2 (FIG. 1) is to provide the sales channel with the steps of sale and sales support resources necessary to quickly and profitably guide customers through the sales process and it is usually unique for each offering. This section describes how to develop a unique sales process for every offering. An embodiment of a customer engagement model template 2 is shown in FIG. 2A. The template 2 includes sections directed to steps 40, average time between 42, number of days to agreement 44, probability of closing at each step 46, and resources and tools available 48. While the template is shown with ten steps, there is no limitation on the number of steps that may be included in the template. A customer engagement model template 2 with sample information for the illustrative example is shown in FIG. 2B.

As noted above, the perception continuum template 3 (FIG. 1) describes where the company and the offering are viewed in the marketplace. An embodiment of a perception continuum template 3 is shown in FIG. 3. The template 3 includes a section directed to identifying market area 50 and a continuum bar 52 having hash indicia representing a range from most negative perception at one end to most positive perception at the other end.

Section 54 instructs a user to identify current perception by indicating with a marking, e.g., a circle, on the continuum bar 52. Section 56 instructs the user to identify with another marking on the bar 52 the perception viewed as being required to win in the marketplace. At section 58, the user is instructed to assess whether moving from the current perception to the required perception is realistic. Section 60 provides an area for the user to indicate how such perception might be moved.

The QICpic template 4 (FIG. 1) is designed to help the sales channel identify qualified prospects. It enables users to develop an understanding of the ideal customer profile. An embodiment of a QICpic template 4 is shown in FIG. 4A. The template 4 includes a starting point 61 and ending point 67 selected for prospect qualification. Preferably, the starting point 61 should be clear, measurable and easily understandable. The ending point 67 is typically a closed sale; however, it might also represent a pilot program, site visit, or other defined end point.

The QICpic template 4 is divided into three assessment benchmark categories: likely business problems or needs 62, attitudes and beliefs 64, and attributes of the business 66. There are three process steps for each assessment benchmark category. This three step process consists of category identification and the listing of positive qualifiers 70 and negative qualifiers 68 for each assessment benchmark category.

In the first assessment benchmark category 62, the first step is to identify the likely customer problems and needs. Next is to list positive qualifiers 70 for the likely customer problems and needs. The third step is to list the negative qualifiers 68 for the likely customer problems and needs and to categorize the negative qualifiers as either “cautions,” represented in FIG. 4A as a yield sign 63, or “show-stoppers,” represented as a stop sign 65.

In the second assessment benchmark category 64, the first step is to identify the attitudes and beliefs. The second step is to list positive qualifiers 70 for the attitudes and beliefs. The third step is to list the negative qualifiers 68 for the attitudes and beliefs and to categorize the negative qualifiers as either “cautions” 63 or “show-stoppers” 65.

Similarly, in the third assessment benchmark category 66, the first step is to identify the business attributes. Next is to list positive qualifiers 70 for the business attributes. The third step is to list the negative qualifiers 68 for the business attributes and to categorize the negative qualifiers as either “cautions” 63 or “show-stoppers” 65.

Ideally, the information used to create the QICpic template is gathered with input from other members of the marketing team, as well as from the sales organization. Also, the QICpic is most easily developed using a template developed in Microsoft PowerPoint. Preferably, the QICpic template is updated on a regular basis to reflect changes in the business environment and/or input from the sales channel.

A QICpic template with sample information for the illustrative example is shown in FIG. 4B. In this example, the starting point 61 identifies a contact person or level at a particular type of customer. The ending point 67 in this example identifies a particular action, i.e., contacting a regional marketing representative.

The customer benefits template 5 (FIG. 1) is directed to helping the sales channel identify the primary and secondary contacts that would benefit most by purchasing the offering. An embodiment of a customer benefits template 5 is shown in FIG. 5A. The template includes sections directed to identifying key customer problems 72, impact/benefit of solving problem 74, those persons, functions or organizations that care about the problem and solution 76, and whether the identified person, function or organization is a primary target 78 a or a secondary target 78 b. The primary contacts are those contacts that may have a vested interest in any decisions made affecting the offering and likely would be closely involved in making such decisions or approving a purchase. The secondary contacts are those contacts that may have a vested interest in any decisions made with respect to the offering, may play a role in the decision process (e.g., may recommend which vendor to select or may be an end user), but probably do not make the final decision or give final approval to the purchase. Information identified in the key customer problems section 72 can be derived from information identified in the QICpic template 4 (FIG. 4A).

A customer benefits template that includes sample information based on the illustrative example is shown in FIGS. 5B and 5C. As shown, for each key customer problem 72 identified, the impact/benefit is indicated in section 74. The template also indicates in section 76 a listing of persons, functions or organization that likely may be concerned with the identified problem and solution. At section 78 there is a marking to indicate whether the identified person is a primary target 78 a or secondary target 78 b.

The value questions template 6 (FIG. 1) helps the sales channel uncover the value of the offering for each prospect. In particular, the positive qualifiers 70 in the QICpic template 4 (FIG. 4A) are used to develop questions that help the sales person uncover the potential value of the offering. The value questions are developed to help the sales channel identify the prospect's current business environment, desired result of need, and the impact or ROI of change. An embodiment of the value questions template 6 is illustrated in FIG. 6A.

The first column of the template consists of the key qualifiers 80 for an offering based on the positive qualifiers 70 from the QICpic template 4 (FIG. 4A). The remaining four columns include queries directed to opening questions 82, current situation 84, desired result 86 and impact 88. Development of these queries requires two elements, namely, using opened ended questions and ensuring that no value judgments are implied in the question. A value questions template that includes sample information based on the illustrative example is illustrated in FIGS. 6B through 6D.

The anticipated objections template 7 (FIG. 1) provides the sales channel with answers to common customer objections or misunderstandings. In particular, the negative qualifiers 68 in the QICpic template 4 (FIG. 4A) are used to develop answers to anticipated customer objections. An embodiment of the anticipated objections template 7 is shown in FIG. 7A.

The first column of the template is directed to listing the anticipated objections 90. The second column pertains to the underlying question 92 in relation to the anticipated objection denoted in the first column 90. In the third column are listed answers and explanations 94 corresponding to the underlying question in the second column 92. Sample information based on the illustrative example for the anticipated objections template is shown in FIGS. 7B and 7C.

The Return on Investment (ROI) spreadsheet template 8 (FIG. 1) provides a format to quantify the potential value of an offering. The ROI templates can be developed from the customer feedback provided from output of the value questions template 6 (FIG. 6A). In particular, this is achieved by analyzing each impact question 88 on the value questions template 6. Since every offering has different variables, the ROI templates are generally customized and tailored for each offering. An embodiment of an ROI template 8 pertaining to an offering aspect relating to a new hire ramp up is illustrated in FIG. 8A. Application of the example template to analyze three different exemplary scenarios is shown in FIG. 8B.

The competitive landscape template 9 (FIG. 1) provides the sales channel with a comparison of the strengths and weaknesses of an offering against the alternatives. An embodiment of the template is illustrated in FIG. 9A. The template includes a first column 96 for listing capabilities. For each of these capabilities a ranking of customer importance is indicated in column 98 based on a customer importance scale 112 of high, medium, and low. In column 100 for each capability the user indicates respective reality and perception measures 100 a, 100 b for the offering company based on a capability ranking scale 110. Likewise, for one or more competitors of the offering company listed in successive columns 102, the capabilities are ranked using the same ranking scale 110. In column 104 the user can indicate a quality of strength for the offering company for one or more of the capabilities based on a strength type 114. A competitive landscape template that includes sample information based on the illustrative example is illustrated in FIG. 9B.

As noted above, the win/lose ground rules template 10 (FIG. 1) is directed to identifying criteria relating to reasons why sales for a particular offering are won or lost, based on information from the competitive landscape template 9. An embodiment of the template is shown in FIG. 10A. The template includes a first column 116 for listing so-called ground rules indicating “where we win”. Likewise, a second column 118 is provided for listing ground rules indicating “where we lose”. FIG. 10B shows a template that includes sample information for the illustrative example.

The competitive tactics template 11 (FIG. 1) provides the sales channel with an indication of the tactics that competitors may use to position their offerings against the company's offerings, based on information from the competitive landscape template 9. An embodiment of the template is illustrated in FIG. 11A. The template includes a first column 120 for listing entries indicating information relating to what the competitors will stress. Columns 122 are included for each identified competitor. A marking (e.g., a checkmark or ‘x’) in a particular column 122 is used to indicate whether an entry in column 120 applies to one or more competitors. A template having sample information for the illustrative example is shown in FIG. 11B.

The probability questions template 12 is directed to helping the sales channel determine the probability of eventually closing the sale. As noted above, the capabilities of the company's offering in the competitive landscape template 9 (FIG. 9A) that are ranked higher than competitive offerings are used to develop ideal buying criteria queries or probability questions. An embodiment of the probability questions template is illustrated in FIG. 12A. The template includes four sections: ideal buying criteria questions 124, decision process questions 126, time frame questions 128 and budget questions 130. FIG. 12B shows a template with sample information based on the illustrative example.

The value proposition template 13 is directed to providing the sales channel with information corresponding to high impact, focused speaking points for use in communicating with prospects and customers. The capabilities of the company's offering that are ranked higher than competitive offerings in the competitive landscape template 9 (FIG. 9A) are also used to develop a value proposition, also referred to as messaging components. An embodiment of the value proposition template is illustrated in FIG. 13A. The template includes three sections that correspond to speaking points: silver bullets 132, best combinations 134 and focused messages 136. A value propositions section includes an area 138 for indicating information relating to reasons why the company is unique in the particular market of interest. Area 140 of the value propositions section is used to indicate information concerning reasons why the company is considered a strong supplier in that market. A template with sample information for the illustrative example is shown in FIGS. 13B and 13C.

Capabilities of the company's offering in the competitive landscape template 9 (FIG. 9A) that rank higher than competitive offerings are used to develop the opening sales script or so-called two-minute drill template 14 (FIG. 1). The two-minute drill template 14 provides the sales channel with information corresponding to an opening sales presentation that can be used to effectively earn qualities such as trust and confidence of the prospective customer of the offering of interest. An embodiment of a two-minute drill template 14 is shown in FIG. 14A. The template includes four sections 142, 144, 146, 148 for indicating information corresponding to answers to questions of “who I am”, “who I represent”, “how our company differentiates itself” and “how you might possibly benefit by selecting our company as your business partner”, respectively. A template with sample information based on the illustrative example is shown in FIG. 14B.

The proposal template 15 (FIG. 1) is directed to providing the sales channel with an outline for presenting customer solutions. An embodiment of a proposal template may include the following elements:

Executive overview
Results of customer interviews
Key customer challenges
Company solution overview - mapped to key challenges
Implementation details
Project plan and timeline
Investment requirements
Return on investment
Appendices
Contract and payment terms
Spec sheets and supporting literature

Having described the template elements that can be used to develop a sales guide containing quality selling information, a process for using the sales guide to document customer needs assessments is now described. Reference is now made to FIG. 15 which illustrates an embodiment of a process for developing a documented customer needs assessment or so-called letter of understanding 16 based on information derived from the QICpic template 4 (FIG. 4A), value questions template 6 (FIG. 6A), ROI spreadsheet template 8 (FIG. 8A), competitive landscape template 9 (FIG. 9A), probability questions template 12 (FIG. 12A), value proposition template 13 (FIG. 13A) and two-minute drill template 14 (FIG. 14A).

Generally, information from the QICpic template 4, competitive landscape template 9, value questions template 6 and the probability questions template 12 is accessed by sales persons of the company to conduct a customer needs assessment. One or more qualifiers relating to an offering from the QICpic template are identified. Value criteria for each qualifier are determined using the value questions template to identify potential value of the sales offering. Ideal buying criteria are determined based on the competitive analysis information of the competitive landscape template. From the value and buying criteria, sales information can be developed. In particular, the resulting documentation of the assessment is generated as a letter of understanding (LOU) 16. The LOU can be used to develop customer-centered solutions, communicate customer information throughout the organization and with partners, develop return on investment projections, develop proposals, close and negotiate, and can be archived to retain important customer information. An embodiment of the LOU includes the following descriptive elements: present situation, desired result, impact, decision criteria, decision process, timeframe, budget and next steps. The following table lists information for these elements based on the illustrative example:

Present Rampac Manufacturing is a leading supplier of high per-
situation formance parts for customizing high performance auto-
mobiles. Rampac parts are the components of choice for
many NASCAR and drag racing crews throughout the
United States. Parts are distributed to over 2500 key
customers, and the company enjoys a tremendous amount
of repeat business from its customer base. Revenues are
currently at $955 million, and have been growing steadily
since the company's inception in 1966. Profit margins have
always been good, but recently have been shrinking. The
cause for this is the increase administrative costs associated
with having knowledgeable support people man a bank of
phones to answer technical questions and provide sales
support. In the last two years alone these costs have risen
over 185%, costing the company approximately $7.5
million in profits. In February of 2000 you initiated an
aggressive program to use the Internet to improve customer
communications, lower labor costs, and more tightly link
your key customers to your manufacturing floor. The
desired outcome was lower cost and improved service. This
has not happened. The system is bogged down, customers
complain that they can't find what they want, and that the
system is “too slow”. Costs have increased and customer
satisfaction has gone down as a result.
Desired You have decided that you will not give up on the Internet
result because you believe it is the best (and only) way to get ad-
ministrative costs under control and improve customer satis-
faction. You are actively looking for a company with the
expertise to “straighten out somebody else's mess”, by
doing a complete analysis of what you have, what you
should have, and link this to your business process so that
you achieve your objectives. You indicated that,
fortunately, the recent drop in customer satisfaction levels
has not cost you a great deal of business. This is due to the
high quality of your products, your reputation in the
business, and the belief your customers have that this is
“just a speed bump” - they have faith that you'll
straighten it out.
Impact If you do not straighten this out soon, customers will lose
faith and you believe you will start to lose business. A
Canadian competitor is looking to enter the US market, and
any vulnerability on your part would be an open invitation
for them to attack your customer base. They could easily
cost you $10-15 million in revenue if they got a foothold
in your market. If you can put in the type of Internet com-
munication system you originally envisioned, not only will
this make it very unattractive for competitors to attack your
base, it would also enable you to continue growing the
business at about $9 to $10 million (10% growth) for the
next two years. You also indicated that such a system could
increase profits by $7 million in year one, and
$11.4 million in year two.
Decision The following items were mentioned as critical criteria for
criteria selecting a vendor:
They must have experience in analysis, design, imple-
mentation, and linking technical systems to business
processes. This needs to be verified with solid references.
You've become convinced that an overall architectural plan
is required to do this right, and would like to see a sample
of such a plan done by vendors who make it to your
“short list”
Manufacturing expertise would be a big plus
Manufacturing references (on top of expertise) would be an
even bigger plus
The vendor has to have a solid plan that outlines the
progress they anticipate making in the next 12 months,
given a $2 million budget.
Decision As the president of the company, you are the sole decision
process maker on purchases up to $2.5 million. Purchases larger
than that will require a meeting of the Board of Directors,
who usually approve anything you bring to them as long as
payback can be achieved in less than 18 months.
Timeframe You are anxious to get moving as soon as possible. To
achieve this, you want a Reference Report from each of the
five vendors you are considering. These are due on
March 21, and you will pick three “short list” vendors and
contact them on Monday, March 24. Each vendor has to
have a proposal to you by Friday, March 28, and meetings
with each vendor will be held the following week. Your
intent is to make a decision by Monday, March 31, and
have the selected vendor start work on Friday, April 4.
Budget You have allocated $2 million for this fiscal year. You
know that fixing all your ills could cost more than double
this figure, but you want to keep this year's expenditures
within the confines of that amount. However, you have
also indicated that if a vendor provides a solid reason why
more should be spent this year because it will generate a
better return on investment, you will go to the Board for
approval of additional funds.
Next steps Please review this letter for accuracy, and let me know if
there's anything I misunderstood or left out. I'll contact you
by this Friday to get your observations. If you prefer, you
can send me a quick note or FAX with any concerns or
changes. Once I'm sure we are on the same track, we
will start working on the plans we would submit to achieve
your objectives. Thanks again for your time.

Having described processes for developing the sales guides based on templates (FIG. 1) and using the sales guide templates to develop LOUs (FIG. 15), a quality selling information system 200 is now described with reference to FIG. 16. The system includes a server 208 that stores and archives developed sales guides 210 and LOUs 212A. The server 208 can be any computer-based device or system having storage and processing capabilities accessible over a local area or wide area network, and may comprise a customer relationship management system server that is accessible over the Internet or corporate intranets or both. The sales guides 210 may comprise information based on the process described in connection with FIG. 1, FIG. 15 or other process for developing quality selling information, as represented by sales content generation block 206. The LOUs 212A may comprise information relating to a customer needs assessment conducted with respect to a particular customer or customers of an offering corresponding to a particular sales guide 210.

In operation of the system, sales persons 202 have the ability to access the server 208 via computer 204 to retrieve a particular sales guide pertaining to an offering of interest to a customer 214. Based on interactions with the customer 214 using information contained in templates of the retrieved sales guide 210, the sales person may develop a new LOU 212 for that customer. In other situations, the sales person may retrieve an archived LOU 212A to be modified for use with the customer. The newly developed LOU 212 or modified LOU can be subsequently stored on the server 208.

According to one aspect of the system 200, the Internet or a corporate intranet may be used to post to the server 208 the quality selling information embodied in the sales guides 210 developed by the marketing organization. This can help both the sales organization and business partners to quickly find the quality “who to sell” and “how to sell” information for an unlimited number of offerings. In addition, such posting capability facilitates the introduction of additional offerings and allows new sales personnel to rapidly acquire the quality selling information needed to perform at a high skill level. Likewise, posting documented LOUs to a customer relationship management system provides sales and customer support personnel with useful and important historical customer information. Product development and marketing personnel can use the documented LOUs to identify new market or product opportunities. In addition, such documentation can be used to provide quality control with respect to the sales organization and partners that conduct the customer needs assessments.

Another aspect of the system 200 is feedback between the sales channel and the marketing organization. This is represented in FIG. 16 as a feedback loop 216 from the sales person 202 and the sales content generation block 206. Such a loop between marketing and the sales channel allows the company to adjust and revise the marketing plans embodied in the sales guides 210 at selected intervals, e.g., periodically or based on milestones in the selling cycle. When improvements to the quality selling information are identified by the sales channel, the Internet can be used to communicate these improvements back to marketing who in turn updates the quality selling information. This ensures that a company's tactical selling information will change in real time as changes occur in the market place. This can be accomplished through the continuous input and best practices of all participants in the marketing plan implementation chain.

While this invention has been particularly shown and described with references to preferred embodiments thereof, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes in form and details may be made therein without departing from the scope of the invention encompassed by the appended claims.

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Referenced by
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US8335707Jan 16, 2009Dec 18, 2012Sales Research Institute, Inc.System and method for developing sales content
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Classifications
U.S. Classification705/7.32, 705/7.35
International ClassificationG06Q30/00, G06Q10/00, G06F17/30
Cooperative ClassificationG06Q30/0204, G06Q30/00, G06Q10/00, G06Q30/0203, G06Q30/0206
European ClassificationG06Q30/0206, G06Q30/0203, G06Q30/0204, G06Q10/00, G06Q30/00
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Aug 8, 2012FPAYFee payment
Year of fee payment: 4
May 19, 2004ASAssignment
Owner name: SALES RESEARCH INSTITUTE, INC., MASSACHUSETTS
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:PETROSSI, ROBERT J.;REEL/FRAME:014651/0382
Effective date: 20040214